The Straw Man fallacy is committed when someone distorts an opponent's position or argument for the purpose of more easily refuting it, and then concludes that the opponent's real argument has been refuted.
This sort of "reasoning" has the following pattern:
Person B has position X.
Person A presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).
Person B attacks position Y.
Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.
This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.
- My opponent argues against prayer in the public schools, and therefore advocates atheism. But atheism is what they used to have in Russia, which led to the suppression of all religious thought and the replacement of God by an omnipotent state. Is that what we want in this country? I hardly think so. Clearly my opponent's argument is nonsense. (from Hurley, 124)
- Prof. Jones: "The university just cut our yearly budget by $10,000."
Prof. Smith: "What are we going to do?"
Prof. Brown: "I think we should eliminate one of the teaching assistant positions. That would take care of it."
Prof. Jones: "We could reduce our scheduled raises instead."
Prof. Brown: " I can't understand why you want to bleed us dry like that, Jones."
- "Senator Jones says that we should not fund the attack submarine program. I disagree entirely. I can't understand why he wants to leave us defenseless like that."
- We should have conscription. People don't want to enter the military because they find it an inconvenience. But they should realize that there are more important things than convenience.
Proof: Show that the opposition's argument has been misrepresented by showing that the opposition has a stronger argument. Describe the stronger argument.